The Lone House and the Rest of The World

Melanie Sharr’s solo exhibition Houses in My Dreams is on view at KALEID Gallery through February 22, 2013. We here at the gallery wanted to share more insight about Melanie and her work. Interview conducted by Lacey Bryant.

 

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Melanie Sharr

Melanie:
A little about myself: I consider myself a homegrown Californian, born in San Francisco, then spent my childhood in a drafty old ivy covered house in Daly City. I currently live in San Mateo which I consider to be a sleepy town (as far as the art scene goes). I am a professional student as I have consistently been enrolled in classes since I graduated from high school. Received my BFA from California State University Eastbay and am currently pursuing my MFA from SJSU. My main avenue of passion is oil painting however recently my attention has been captured by metal casting and 3-dimensional work.

KALEID:
The house you grew up in sounds like it has a lot of character.  Did the experience of your childhood house inspire you to create a series around the idea of homes?

Melanie:
The house I grew up in was an old Victorian that contained many nooks and crannies. My current work is inspired by the sense of mystery this house provided me when I was young. We owned an upright piano which I never learned to play although I did play horrible made up music. My mom loves plants so there was a collection of plants in almost each room. There was a designated wall in my room where I was able to draw in crayon on. The exterior of the home was pretty worn with chipping paint and ivy creeping up the sides, often the kids from the block would tease me that I lived in a haunted house, of course this wasn’t true.

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He Was Often Seen with the Evenings Augmented Dew
oil on canvas, 34″ x 43″

KALEID:
The houses in your current series are of all different types and each is in a unique setting, too.  It seems like the landscape is a part of the character of each house.  Can you tell me a little about that choice?

Melanie:
The various backdrops in my paintings are tailored to complement the physical look of each particular house. These landscapes with their distinct qualities work to emphasize a mood from the houses in my current series.  For me, landscapes act as a unifying element between the lone house and the rest of the world.

KALEID:
I like that contrast, the houses do have a sense of isolation and at the same time a unity with their environment, as if they are growing into each other.  Many of the houses stand alone, but a few have animal or human characters associated with them.  There is a very dreamlike feel to the work and a kind of playfulness.  What do the figures in your paintings represent to you and how do they contribute to the unique feeling you’re expressing?

Melanie:
Most of the figures in my paintings are an exaggeration of myself and the people in my life. I equally enjoy painting human portraits to animals. In some ways the characteristics and traits of those I know are closely aligned to that of a specific animal. The figures in my paintings become an expression and further saturate the scene with a particular mood.

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The Man and His Truck and the Horse and Her House
oil on canvas, 51″ x 72″

KALEID:
Tell me about your process.  Can you describe your studio space and what a usual working day is like for you?  Do you have any rituals that help you get in “the zone”?

Melanie:
A day in the studio consists of listening to a finely tailored playlist of mine. Music is necessary for accessing my creative mood. I choose my music song by song and often spend hours searching for new tunes. I prefer soft indie music with the likes of PJ Harvey, Grizzly Bear, Atlas Sound and Cat Power. When I paint, I sing out loud, require lots of coffee and despise interruptions. It seems to work best if I can paint for a solid three hour block of time.

KALEID:
Sounds like a cosy little cave!  It looks like your work is done in many layers, is that right?  How many sittings does a typical painting take?  How did you arrive at this method as your preferred way of painting?

Melanie:
Yes, I paint in many layers to create depth and to make the colors more pronounced. Once the initial layout of paint is completely dry I add a transparent layer of liquin (a drying agent) mixed with stand oil which I then lay opaque color on top. The layer of fluid suspends the pigment across evenly allowing for light to reflect through. Usually I will dedicate three sittings to a painting before my desired result is achieved. A teacher from CSUEB introduced me to the process back in 2010; I really enjoyed the outcome and have approached all my paintings in this manner since then!

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Iron Rabbit, bronze sculpture from Sharr’s “Construct” exhibit at SJSU.
KALEID:
You had also mentioned that you’re starting to explore sculptural work.  Is this work a continuation of the narrative of your paintings or is it a new direction?  Can you tell me a little about these works?

Melanie:
My new found love for metal casting is a continuation of my narrative from the 2-d world. So far I have sculpted and cast a bronze bear and an iron rabbit. When I was younger I went through a welding program which had a technical focus so I was never able to make art but now, years later, I can finally utilize those skills. I find it important for artists to explore different mediums because it allows you to communicate from a fresh perspective.

KALEID:
It’s great to hear that you’re still discovering new ways to tell your story!  What do you think drives you to create?

Melanie:
I think for some people, creating is the only way they can process and express life. For me, art is necessary, it is the steady while everything else is fleeting. I have no words to describe what I feel when I am lost in my work, all I know is I have to continue.

KALEID:
I love that answer!  Ok, one last question : what message would you like viewers to take away from your work?

Melanie:
My only hope, when a person views my work, is that it triggers a memory or a dream they may have forgotten when they were young.

 

View available art work by Melanie here.

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